Displaying 1 - 10 of 1017 entries.


  • Posted on April 14, 2015 at 9:35 PM

This year I am so excited with the behind the scenes and not-so-directly-in-the-classroom activities that have occurred at my school and in the library. One of the most exciting has been our creating a GEMS club at our elementary school. What is a GEMS club, you ask? Well, despite my well-known passion for all things rock, mineral, fossil, and gem, this is a club of Girls Excelling in Math and Science.GEMS11-29-14sm.341103853_logo

I’m not the first club, oh, no! GEMS is the brainchild of Laura Reasoner Jones. Visit the official website http://gemsclub.org and you will be amazed at the power at your fingertips. These organizers have put everything you could need there for you to download to implement your own club. 


Dr. Benoist and Dr. Hamann

I discovered the GEMS website while Dr. Caroline C. Benoist and I were seeking a way to start a science club at our STEM elementary school. We wanted to include all the elements of STEM, but we also wanted to inspire girls to try more experiments and make science their career. As soon as we learned about GEMS, we were able to download their free guide, send invitations to girls in third and fourth grades, contact parents, plan our first experiments and hold our first GEMS club meeting within ten days. We hooked in another scientist Dr. Bree Hamann and my best friend/colleague/P.E. teacher/Biology major Deborah Weakland and we were set. I approached the principal for permission armed with facts and figures, stories of the importance of girls being involved in science and math activities for fun, goals, etc. but as soon as I said, “We want to start a girls’ science and math club…” She said, “Of course, go for it. We’re a STEM school.” I didn’t even need to pull out all the research and persuade her. 

We’ve offered two separate four week sessions of GEMS to involve as many girls as possible since January. We have had 30 girls involved and the program will be expanding in the fall. We’ve conducted experiments with surface tension, ARC’s, catapults, exploding ziplock bags (chemical transformation), climbing spiders (friction), throwing eggs at the building (in their protective designs), and have been visited by the local STEM high school to demonstrate and show off some of the exciting things waiting for them down their educational road. 

Set up a planetarium in your library

Set up a planetarium in your library


IMG_0107 Less than two minutes later. It was deflated and ready for packing.

 Along the way we brought in guest speakers at our school like Erica Grundstrum (Dr. G), from the  Fisk-Vanderbilt Astronomy Roadshow Planetarium. She brought with her a mini-planetarium we were able to set up in our school library. I was amazed how easy it was to set up and take down. 

Dr. Benoist and I planned a presentation for district school librarians so they could start their own GEMS club. This is available at  http://tinyurl.com/GEMSofSTEM I hope that some of you will check it out and offer to lead your own GEMS club in your school library next year. We know we are making a difference because students are writing scientifically for the Budding Scientist journal, plus they are identifying themselves as scientists, mathematicians, and engineers. I overheard a girl asking her friend if she was going to GEMS club this week. She replied, “Of course because I am a GEM!” She’s right in every aspect of the word. I’m so grateful to be able to offer this opportunity to our students.

Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour Stones for Grandpa

  • Posted on February 16, 2014 at 12:28 PM


The Sydney Taylor Book Award is presented annually to outstanding books for children and teens that authentically portray the Jewish experience. Presented by the Association of Jewish Libraries since 1968, the award encourages the publication and widespread use of quality Judaic literature. Gold medals are presented in three categories: Younger Readers, Older Readers, and Teen Readers. Honor Books are awarded silver medals, and Notable Books are named in each category.

For 2014 younger readers, two Honor Books were selected, both published by Kar-Ben a division of Lerner Publishing Group: Stones for Grandpa by Renee Londoner with illustrations by Martha Avillés and Rifka Takes a Bow by Betty Rosenberg Perlov with illustrations by Cosei Kawa. I am pleased to share Stones for Grandpa and my interview with illustrator Martha Avillés.

The illustrations show a balance of love and loss, of joyful memories and sad moments missing grandpa. As you were composing your illustrations, did you have personal memories that inspired your art?
Of course I did, this work was a trip into my memories but was, too, one way to think in the present – a time of thinking in the way that I am in the life of the persons that I love. This work took me to remembering the legacy of my grandmother, everything that I shared with her and the presence that she has in my life. For me, work on this book was like having a long conversation with my grandmother.

Could you explain your illustration process? How long did contemplating and planning your illustrations take? 

The working time was around 7 months. First, I read the text again and again. After reading: PARALYSIS, I don’t draw, I start to search and see the images in my head all the time (while I walk, cook, see books, ate or sleep) But one day, all of it appears in my head, and this is the moment to sit down and draw. Draw again and again to call the characters, until they decide to walk from my heart to my hand. There, one day, they ARE ! The process at this point acquires a bit of magic, the characters start to tell your story, they have done themself almost alone. One scene and other, the characters are telling me their scenarios, their positions and expressions, they are alive and talking. In this way I finished the stage of drawings.


Now starts the color stage after I have received the comments and approval to go to finals from my editor. In this  time, I feel absolute TERROR, it is the most difficult time for me. It is the harder and longer process, these take 4-5 months. This is a time of loneliness with music, readings and meditation; a time of “fight” where I always lose, but it gives me a profound transformation and an unwavering desire to follow, insisting, trying to find just that I want to tell with the images.

Did one particular illustration become your favorite or the most challenging? gives me a profound transformation and an unwavering desire to follow insisting, trying to find just what I want to tell with the images.


These illustrations were done with acrylic on cotton paper. My favorite are two: the first one is where the child is in his bedroom because there is a moment of maximum privacy: only him and his memories.

The other is the last page: because there is a moment of maximum complicity that shows a live dialogue between the child and his grandfather (in this image there is not death, there only are love and life).

What are your recommendations for great Jewish kids lit? Stones4_web
I personally admire the loyalty of the Jewish to their traditions. I think these are fertile soil to strengthen ethical and spiritual values that lead to sensible and conscious human beings .

What trends do you see coming our way?
I think there is a need to retrieve the values of children and youth formation, and I think that Classics, tradition and myth are a source of such values, which are of vital importance to underscore the significance of life and the self-being. On the other hand, I see that there are some opportunities in the production of playful publications for adults, if there are illustrated books for children, why not for adults? In this area, I think that it is necessary to break the paradigm by creating products that refresh the traditional concept of books for adults.

What are your next steps in your career? Martha_Aviles_Photo
To work more with children than for them. Recently, I have had meetings with groups of K-8 grade students to share my experiences, and the result has been, for them and for me, of transforming wealth. I want to create through my work a space for playful and creative dialogue with children.

What does the Sydney Taylor award/honor mean to you?
At a personal level the award gives me joy and a dose of unexpected affection. Professionally, it promotes the awareness and outreach of the book. The true value of the award is to enable the “message in the bottle” to reach many ports, and touch the heart and curiosity of more children and also a more diverse audience.

Will anything be different now that your work has been recognized by the Sydney Taylor Book Award?
I am not certain of the meaning of this award for a Children’s Book Illustrator in the US, but for me working from Mexico it means a different opportunity to connect with kids or diverse cultural groups in the US through the illustration. This award strengthens my confidence in the work I do and my love for it, as well as the joy with which I do it.


Thank you for sharing such an absolutely beautiful story through your illustrations. I believe you have provided all parents of any religion a story to share, to help grieve, and to go on living with happy memories. My favorite illustrations are the ones that show grief through solitary tears on the family members while you can tell they are remembering happy times and celebrating the life of their beloved grandfather.

Be sure to visit the Association of Jewish Libraries blog and the official Sydney Taylor site. Below is the schedule for the 2014 Sydney Taylor Book Award Blog Tour. Please follow the links to visit the hosting blogs on or after their tour dates, and be sure to leave them plenty of comments!

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 16, 2014 Renee Londner, author of Stones for Grandpa Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category At The Write Stuff

Martha Aviles, illustrator of Stones for Grandpa Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category here at Practically Paradise

Aline Sax, author, Caryl Strzelecki, illustrator, and Laura Watkinson, translator of The War Within These Walls Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category At The 3 R’s: Reading, ‘Riting, Research

MONDAY, FEBRUARY 17, 2014 Laurel Snyder, author of The Longest Night Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category At Geo Librarian

Catia Chen, illustrator of The Longest Night Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Younger Readers Category At Holy Sparks

Robyn Bavati, author of Dancing in the Dark Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Teen Readers Category At Bildungsroman

TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 18, 2014 Neal Bascomb, author of The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Teen Readers Category At Randomly Reading

Carol Matas, author of Dear Canada: Pieces of the Past: The Holocaust Diary of Rose Rabinowitz Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category At Pen and Prose

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 19, 2014 Cosei Kawa, illustrator of Rifka Takes a Bow  Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Younger Readers Category. At Jewish Books for Children

Elisabeth Leyson, contributor to The Boy on the Wooden Box: How the Impossible Became Possible…on Schindler’s List Sydney Taylor Honor Award winner in the Older Readers Category. At The Interlace Place

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 20, 2014 Patricia Polacco, author and illustrator of The Blessing Cup. Sydney Taylor Book Award winner in the Older Readers Category. At Ann Koffsky’s Blog

Quick note on Book not to Miss

  • Posted on January 24, 2014 at 9:03 AM

As I am waiting for my plane to ALA Midwinter, I realized I had not shared one of those special titles that should be in all upper elementary and middle school collections. Author John P. Stanley released Mickey Price Journey to Oblivion this September. The publisher is Tanglewood. I noticed that many reviewers miss titles from Tanglewood and this one is an excellent science fiction  title that realistically shares a space Cover of Mickey Pricemission that COULD have happened in history.

While reading this title, I was reminded of the Princess Bride and the first time I saw it as a movie. A grandfather is sitting and reading a story to his cranky grandson. He has to sell this book because the grandson is rather skeptical. In Mickey Price Journey to Oblivion we have the point of view of a father sharing a “true” story of his past with his equally skeptical children. The story alternates between a scientific fantasy tale of children who saved the space program with their fantastical journey to the moon, and the father’s discussion with his children years later. Some reviewers thought it was confusing, but this is an excellent way to introduce point of view. I’d love to see it made into a movie.

The space exploration aspects from the early days of travel are well-written. Students at my STEM school love the title because it opens dreams to them of possible futures. It is an exciting story that manages to weave some true facts of space exploration and may trigger historical research. Making the journey to the moon and astronauts traveling in space exciting is a worthy endeavor. I had to purchase three copies to satisfy the demand. Imagine what will happen when just one teacher reads it aloud!

The characters reminded me of those in The Mysterious Benedict Society, but were more realistically depicted. Orphans, geniuses, students with unusual abilities and learning styles being celebrated and learning how to work together. Every gifted and talented teacher should add this to their class collection, also.

Here is the publisher’s description:

The moon is under threat of a nuclear meltdown due to a space station malfunction. Complicating things is the presence of pleurinium, a magnetic material that makes humans instantly, seriously ill – well, all humans who are 14 years old and up.

Mickey Price is an orphan in Orlando; Trace Daniels is a go-kart champion in Nevada; Jonah Jones is a budding scientist in Illinois. They don’t know each other, but they are all being watched and studied by men in white shirts, thin black ties, and distinctive gold-colored sunglasses. The three kids are invited to a NASA camp, but this camp isn’t for summer fun. It’s a training camp for a mission full of dangers that will test each of them to the maximum, but it’s also an adventure full of thrills, fun, and some unexpected companions, not all of whom are human.

Seeking test banks of Information Literacy & library focused question

  • Posted on January 11, 2014 at 4:37 PM

While assisting teachers with instructional design and putting together my pacing guides for this semester, I realized that I spend far too much time reinventing the wheel. There are many school librarians out there who have developed test banks of questions for use with programs like Examview, Smartboards, Promethean boards, CPS clickers, Promethean clickers, etc. Where are these and why are they so difficult to find?

If the nation has a “common core” of state standards, there should be some consistency in the items we assess. Rather than just waiting around anxiously for the PARCC assessment, we should be actively defining and pinpointing the most important areas. Why should it only be businesses that generate test questions? I’m currently waiting for the ability to input reading textbook questions into our teacher’s libraries. Why should I have to wait to assess this using a narrow focus of text?

Librarians can help teachers by creating banks of questions to integrate into basic information literacy instruction. I’m not advocating for any more paper tests, but I am looking for quick questions that other librarians use to do on-the-fly or formative assessment. If I want to be sure students know the difference between primary and secondary sources, wouldn’t five well-developed questions be helpful?

The Library of Congress Summer Institutes have been announced so I spent time today writing my application and minimizing my answers to 500 characters. I’d like to know if anyone has already developed a tool like this to make my instruction easier. I can go to PrometheanPlanet.org to download flipcharts created by teachers and librarians,  but they aren’t specific enough to directly correlate with what I teach in the library. The TRAILS test is essentially a test bank of questions that can be used, but the level of assessment is higher than my beginning learners are prepared. I need something easier, broader, and for younger learners. Any ideas?

Junie B. Jones Stupid Smelly Bus Tour Coming to Nashville

  • Posted on June 11, 2013 at 6:11 AM



DON’T MISS IT! I Can’t WAIT!!!! 

 Celebrate the TENTH ANNIVERSARY of the tour,

which brings literary favorite Junie B. Jones to 15 cities across the country!

Come Along for the Ride!

WHAT:                                  Live performance and “Bookstamping”

The Junie B. Jones® Stupid Smelly Bus is bringing the star of the bestselling Junie B. Jones® book series to meet her fans JBJ_BusTour_Logo_2013_round (2)in 15 cities across the country.  Book retailers will host events at which Junie B. will share her hilarious antics through a live, theatrical performance based on Barbara Park’s bestselling Junie B. Jones®series.  Events also include free Junie B. souvenirs for kids and an official “book stamping.”  This event is recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Launched in the summer of 2004, Junie B. Jones and Mr. Woo have spent almost every summer traveling the country in their hot pink bus bringing everyone’s favorite first grader Junie B. Jones to life. With an original script written by award-winning author Barbara Park, Junie B. Jones and her bus driver, Mr. Woo will be entertaining new readers and established fans alike.  The Junie B. Jones® series is one of the most popular among kids, and has sold over 55 million print, audio books, and eBooks to date.

JBJ Symbols copyright Marcia CirielloWHO:                                    Featuring Nicole Acevedo, as Junie B. Jones, Karlo Ceria, as Mr. Woo and produced by G. Wayne Hoffman, this event brings the bestselling Junie B. Jones® series to life!

WHEN/WHERE:          Sunday, June 23rd at 2:00 PM

Nashville Children’s Theater (Co-sponsored by Parnassus Books)

25 Middleton Street, Nashville, TN 37210

For more information, call the store at (615) 953-2243

Monday, June 24th at 11:00 AM    Barnes & Noble 1701 Mallory Lane, Brentwood TN, 37207

Learn more at JunieBJones.com.           

Admission information:  The Junie B. Jones® Stupid Smelly Bus Tour events are free and open to the general public unless otherwise noted.

The Junie B. Jones® Stupid Smelly Bus Tour is sponsored by Random House Children’s Books

Nonfiction Monday is here in PracticallyParadise

  • Posted on June 9, 2013 at 11:34 PM

nonfiction.mondayIt’s back! Practically Paradise is happy to host Nonfiction Monday June 10, 2013, after a long break from blogging. I had a backlog of books to read and will be sharing those titles with you frequently from now through the summer. Today we have links to posts written by bloggers around the kidlitosphere. If you’d like to add a post, you can submit information on the google docs form or simply post it in the comments below.

Here’s a title that I am excitedly planning for purchasing in the fall with a publication date of  Nov. 1st:Hey charleston!

Hey, Charleston! The True Story of the Jenkins Orphanage Band by Anne Rockwell (Author) and Colin Bootman (Illustrator). Lerner books, 2013. $16.95 Hardcover, Jacketed. $12.95 eBook. Ages 7–11 HC: 978-0-7613-5565-6 EB: 978-0-7613-8843-2. 32 Pages

I couldn’t wait for this title so reviewed it from NetGalley after reading this description:

What happened when a former slave took beat-up old instruments and gave them to a bunch of orphans? Thousands of futures got a little brighter and a great American art form was born.

In 1891, Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins opened his orphanage in Charleston, South Carolina. He soon had hundreds of children and needed a way to support them. Jenkins asked townspeople to donate old band instruments—some of which had last played in the hands of Confederate soldiers in the Civil War. He found teachers to show the kids how to play. Soon the orphanage had a band. And what a band it was.

The Jenkins Orphanage Band caused a sensation on the streets of Charleston. People called the band’s style of music “rag”—a rhythm inspired by the African-American people who lived on the South Carolina and Georgia coast. The children performed as far away as Paris and London, and they earned enough money to support the orphanage that still exists today. They also helped launch the music we now know as jazz.

Hey, Charleston! is the story of the kind man who gave America “some rag” and so much more. If you visit the Lernerbooks.com website, you can download and fold a two-sided bookmark to accompany this book.

Since I live in Nashville, Tennessee, which is the home of the Fisk Jubilee Singers, stories about the effect music has on children’s lives means a great deal to me. This historical description of the beginning of jazz is interesting musically, but the perseverance of Reverend Daniel Joseph Jenkins is what cries out the most. The illustrations are filled with energy and movement. The dancers inspire movement. Be prepared to play some rag and dance the Charleston to fully engage with your story time listeners. This is a great pick and I cannot wait to share the print version with my students.

Howie’s first post for his summer reading

  • Posted on June 9, 2013 at 9:14 PM

TheLabHowie shares with us his post about The Lab by by Jack Heath giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

The Lab is a book about a super human spy that was born in a tube.  The main character of this story is Agent Six of Hearts. Six has the biggest secret on the planet, he is a test subject in an experiment to create the ultimate assassins. He has to stop the lab from creating an army while also keeping  his giant secret.  Along the way he finds help in a physical copy of himself.  Some of Six’s enhancements are bat hearing, hawk sight and bones, sharks skin, and cheetah speed.




What are you wearing to the Newbery/Caldecott banquet?

  • Posted on June 9, 2013 at 4:49 PM

Have you seen the video by Jim Averbeck and Betsy Bird for the 75th Caldecott Anniversary: Byrd & Averbeck Plan

The anniversary committee is encouraging folks to wear elegant attire that gives a nod to the wearer’s favorite Caldecott winner or honoree, past or present. There will be a station set up for photographs, encouragement to share them on social media, and a red carpet.

I’m waiting for my summer workshop paycheck to purchase my ticket to the banquet, but already I’m considering what to wear. Elegant yet with a nod to a past title. Hmmm?

Here’s the link to the list of Newbery past winners: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/newberymedal/newberywinners/medalwinners

The list of Caldecott winners and honor books is: http://www.ala.org/alsc/awardsgrants/bookmedia/caldecottmedal/caldecotthonors/caldecottmedal

Exploring other blogs while leaving comments

  • Posted on January 15, 2013 at 12:13 AM

As part of the 2013 Comment Challenge I continue to visit other blogs and leave comments. Today I checked out

  • Carrie @ Storypatch’s post for Perfect Picture Book Friday – Bringing Down the Moon includes a link toA science lesson on how distance affects perception of size: http://www.eyeonthesky.org/lessonplans/12sun_littlemoon.html
  • Maria@ Once Upon A Story shares a post about why or more exactly how she does not Read to her baby. While I appreciate her acknowledging that language is acquired through more than the 20-minute lap sit, I see far more avid readers who recall a loving family member who read to them while they were little. I loved reading to my sons as they were growing up, but it seems they don’t recall the many storytimes as much as I do. If I could change anything, I’d go back in time and read even more.
  • When I popped into Donna L Martin‘s website, I found some unique resources for writer’s. As I stumbled around the site, I discovered the blog http://www.donasdays.blogspot.com/ and was soon lost in exploring various links and experiencing “being a writer” again. This blog inspired me to suddenly journal again. Hmm! Dangerous. And I love it.
  • Sarah Albee blogs every Monday, Wednesday and Friday about the intersection of history and science. Her  favorite topics are the history of sanitation, funky fashions, and insects. I love the quirkiness of truth in history. After reading about diethylene glycol, I had to go check all my hair and cosmetic products.
  • Miss Marple’s Musings shared another excellent puppy book from Candlewick Press – Charley’s First Night. Written by Amy Hest and Illustrated by Helen Oxenbury this looks like a lovely title to share.

2013 Comment Challenge

  • Posted on January 13, 2013 at 8:07 PM

Who have I visited and commented on lately during the 2013 Comment Challenge?

  1. Madigan @ Madigan Reads
  2. Lori Norman @ StoryQuill: A Writer’s Blog
  3. EMU’s Debuts which really helped me appreciate how long it takes to get published
  4. Redpeffer‘s blog on everything parent from craft to nature to education and anything else that takes her fancy.
  5. Pragmatic Mom with Education matters covering parenting, children’s literature, and education. Loved the post on Girls Who Dare to Fly.
  6. Storied Cities reviews of decidedly urban illustrated and chapter books for children. Loved Laundry Day and noticed it was on several bloggers “best” lists.
  7. Green Bean TeenQueen A Teen and Tween Librarian’s thoughts on books, reading and adventures in the library.
  8. Cathy Mealey reviewed A Sailor’s Life for Me! by Richard Platt. Illustrated by Stephen Biesty. USS Constitution Museum, 2012. Suitable for: Ages 7-12 with the Themes/Topics: Nautical history, shipboard life, USS Constitution, War of 1812. Hmmm! It’s hard to locate good titles for the War of 1812.
  9. Visiting Myra, Fats, Iphigene @ Gathering Books was dangerous since I couldn’t resist signing up for the The Award-Winning-Books Reading Challenge.
  10. Perogies & Gyoza continues their adventures in books & bilingualism with their picturebook top 10 list. I am embarrassed whenever I see how many books I haven’t read yet. How about you?

What is the 2013 Comment Challenge?  For the next 21 days visit and leave comments on five different kid lit blogs daily. The kidlitosphere lists gives lots of blogs to check out. Thanks to Lee Wind, M. Ed. the Official Blogger For the Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators http://scbwi.blogspot.com/ and the Mother Reader blog http://www.motherreader.com/ for sponsoring this challenge.